Helping Duke Women Become Self-Assured

Stephanie Helms Pickett of Duke Women’s Center mentors students, organizes campus programs

Stephanie Helms Pickett, director of the Duke Women's Center (bottom left in photo), poses with center staff members and interns. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Helms Pickett
Stephanie Helms Pickett, director of the Duke Women's Center (bottom left in photo), poses with center staff members and interns. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Helms Pickett

Name: Stephanie Helms PickettPosition: Director, Duke Women’s CenterYears at Duke: 9What I do at Duke: There are committees and groups that I’m a part of in Student Affairs. I’m working on transitional issues for first-year students. Before the new students even arrive, we start planning for the next year. I’m also working on a task force on preventing sexual assault, establishing connections with the Baldwin Scholars Program and Women’s Housing Option (WHO), working on any issue that female-identified students at Duke may be impacted by, and presently working on the 25th-anniversary celebration of the Center’s founding. Women don’t have to apologize or have an excuse for who we are when they enter the Women’s Center. Any programming or services that we can do to assist in that is who we are. (The center organizes programs such as 3rd Thursdays, which is a lunchtime womanist/feminist discussion, and the Women’s Collective, an informal, safe space to discuss female experiences at Duke.) If I had $5 million, I would: Create some kind of amazing retreat center on the water with amazing chefs and just a place where people could go to rejuvenate, to reflect, to get back whatever they’ve lost. There is some kind of agreement that in that space, you create something that can help somebody else. My first ever job: Bank of America and I worked on the marketing team. One of my jobs was to call California in the morning and write out the rates for loans. Let’s just say I got it wrong. It wasn’t to the bank’s favor. The rates were going to benefit the customers, and it wasn’t the rates that the bank was currently running. It was the kind of thing when customers saw it, customers thought, “Let’s buy a house today!” For the rest of the summer, I popped popcorn in the lobby.The best advice I ever received: When I was in third grade, my teacher had everyone bring in an item from home and put it in a box. On Friday, we would have to pull something out of that box, and you would have to create a story. Something she always said, ‘If you use your imagination, you can make things happen.’ (One of Helms Pickett’s items was a sock, and she created a story about going on an adventure on the South side of Chicago.)What I love about Duke: I appreciate being in an environment where people are committed to saying, ‘Yeah, that’s good, and how can we enhance that? How can we make that better?’ When I’m not at work, I like to: I’ve written two books, I write a blog every Monday on my website, and I’m working on the third book now. It’s collecting some of the blogs that I’ve written and putting them in one place, so it’s kind of like a 40-day inspirational journey. Something most people don’t know about me: I’ve been dancing probably since I was a child. My daughter and I both joined a dance ministry at my church, Wake Chapel Church in Raleigh. I dance about three or four times a month at my church for worship. (Helms Pickett also teaches dance ministry classes at the N.C. Correctional Institution for Women in Raleigh. “I go in and teach dance, but they teach me a whole lot more,” she said.)An interesting/memorable day at work for me: I’ve had the ability to witness for a couple of years Final Honors, which is the program that the Mary Lou Williams Center and Black Student Alliance put on together, which is the night before students officially graduate from Duke University. It’s about seeing students select people who have impacted them over the course of their years at Duke to be there, meet their families and make connections to the support system that they had before they came to Duke and the support system that they had while they were here.